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A Rite of Passage: The SSI Age-18 Redetermination


There are quite a few milestones along the way as we get older but reaching the age of 18 has come to be a point when you can really acknowledge that you aren’t a child anymore. Of course, you’re not allowed to do everything (notwithstanding the laws on drinking, you’re still 17 years from being allowed to be president of the USA), but in the eyes of many you’re an adult with adult responsibilities. Certainly, Social Security looks upon you as all grown up and for childhood SSI recipients that means there’s a hurdle to negotiate: the age 18 redetermination.

The decision was made by congress in 1996 that every childhood SSI beneficiary on reaching 18 has to go through the same process of determining their disability status as any adult who was applying for SSI for the first time. The reason behind the decision was because the rules for meeting the criteria for childhood disability are far less strict that those for adults.

So, what actually happens? At some point, expected to be shortly after turning 18, a beneficiary will receive notification from Social Security that a medical review is going to be conducted to establish if the beneficiary meets the ‘adult’ disability standards. The first step in that process is for the beneficiary to attend a meeting at his local field office where the caseworker will interview him and complete the Adult Disability Report and function reports. It is here that the caseworker will ask for releases of information to be signed so they can contact doctors, therapists, teachers, and/or service providers who can possibly provide evidence of a disability. All the information gathered there is sent to the Disability Determination Service (DDS). It is the DDS who will gather additional information from those providers and will also look to assess the applicant’s ability to work. Based on all the information provided DDS will make the decision on whether the beneficiary meets their definition of disabled.

If someone does qualify for SSI as an adult he can expect his SSI to carry on as it was before, and there’s never an interruption in eligibility. If the decision is unfavorable the applicant has a two month grace period where he can receive his SSI before it is terminated. Fortunately, there is a little light in the shade for those no longer deemed eligible as any SSI received after turning 18 (but before the end of the grace period) doesn’t have to be paid back. It’s also worth reiterating that although Social Security looks to make the redetermination as soon as someone turns 18, it’s on them to initiate the process and they can take quite a while to get around to that.

For more information on this you can go to Social Security’s own publication here: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11005.pdf